The Revival of the Soda Fountain (part 2)

When I was at The Ice Cream Bar and Soda Fountain I received a mini history lesson on soda fountains in the US.  Soda fountains flourished during the prohibition years, when recently unemployed bartenders, who wanted to continue their skill for mixology, switched to mixing sodas.  These soda jerks, as they were called, would mix an array of ingredients  to make non-alcoholic drinks that typically had medicinal qualities.  By the early 1920s almost every drugstore had a soda fountain!

drugstore soda fountain circa 1920

The birth of the US soda fountain is believed to be in the 1850s, when a person could visit a drugstore and have a  drink that was a concoction of drugs (to cure ailments) and flavors (to make the drinks palatable).  Two common additives were caffeine and cocaine, both of which were used medicinally to reduce headaches. Sodas began to gain a negative reputation as being addictive.  It wasn’t until 1914 that the Harrison Act banned the use of cocaine and other opiates in over the counter products.

soda fountain circa 1890

With the Harrison Act in place, as well as Jacob Baur’s marketing efforts, sodas were seen again in a positive light. Baur, a pharmacist who founded the Liquid Carbonic Co. in 1888, (which manufactured and sold carbon dioxide for soda creation)  ran advertisements describing his sodas as having no medicinal qualities, not habit forming and rather being just sweet, delicious drinks.

soda fountain circa 1950

Soda fountains remained popular until the 1950s and then almost vanished by the 1970s.  Bravo Ice Cream Bar & Soda Fountain for helping bring back this treat!

For more information visit Drugstore Museum.  All pictures from that site.


About tulipsandcoffee

A lover of history, I enjoy exploring the Barbary Coast in search of fashion, food and Jack Kerouac’s old haunts.
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